Bitterness and unforgiveness can have such a strong grip on the heart. The only thing that can melt it is looking at Christ on the cross dying for our sins. If the cross of Christ doesn’t melt your heart and allow you to truly forgive others who have wronged you, there’s only one explanation: you don’t truly believe what happened on the cross.
Are you going to hold another person by the neck in your thoughts? Are you justified to do that? When you remember the Lord whispering in your ears: “Your sins, which are many, are forgiven.” “No, but you don’t know what they did to me!” And God is saying, “But do you remember what you did to Me?” “Do you remember what you’ve done to others?” Do you remember what you’ve done to your parents? Do you remember what you’ve done to your friends? Do you remember what you’ve done to your family members? Do you remember what you’ve done to people you didn’t know? Do you remember the things you’ve done? And see, there’s something about faith that latches hold on that truth. I would just ask you this, does that reality soften your heart towards other people? Does it melt the frozen heart? Those simple words: “As God in Christ forgave you…” If you can just respond, “but you don’t know what that person did to me,” what can I say to you? I can say to you what Peter said to Simon Magus: You’re in the gall of bitterness. You’re not giving any evidence that you know the Lord. Because what you’re doing is you’re not giving any evidence that you have faith that that is true of you. Listen to these words again: “Forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Think, what did God owe you after the life you lived? God owed us nothing. We just didn’t hate one another – being hated and hating – we hated Him. And how does He respond? You tell me. How does He respond? He takes His eyes off of us and He turns them on His beloved Son, and He strikes Him with such a blow as to drain the dregs of hell for every one of His people. That’s what happens. He doesn’t hold back His only Son. He sent Him all the way to that shame and all the way to that agony of the cross so that every one of my miserable sins could be put away. See, this is what has to happen; this is what faith does: You’ve got any resentment at all towards an individual; towards a brother or sister especially, and what are you going to do? Here’s what you need to do: You look at them, and you know what? The grief, the wrong, it may be legit – in fact, it may be bad, but what you want to do is you want to look then at the cross. You want to see Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. He’s like, Father, I don’t want to go to this. I don’t want to do this. This is too terrible. Please take this away. But He surrenders. “I came to do Thy will.” You look at that and look back at this. “But they wronged me.” Go back and look there. Watch Him being scourged. Watch them hoist Him. The sun forbears to shine – what is going on in that three hours of darkness? He is silent. “But they wronged me.” “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” “But that’s speaking about the Roman soldiers.” No, what happens is the Spirit gives you ears to hear. Forgive you because you didn’t know what you were doing. You nailed Him to the cross. Your sins. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” That’s a good question to try to answer. “But Lord, they wronged me.” Behold the Man. They brought Him out with a crown of thorns. They shamed Him. This is the Son of God. He endured the shame of the cross. And Psalm 22 says that His soul was poured out like water. And you know Isaiah 53. God crushed Him. He sweat as it were great drops of blood because He was under such duress. He said at one point there leading up to the cross that He was so under the duress of the coming cross, He was ready to die even before it got there. The idea of what He had to be confronted with. Now you look back at these individuals and what they’ve done to you, and you recognize why the Son of God – God Himself – why One so mighty, why One of such character and pure, pristine character must come from the very halls of Heaven and come down here and humble Himself – how it is that God even became man, who can tell? That God even would become man is a miracle. That God would become man to die for us! Okay, you look back at what they’ve done to you and you look at this. And if that doesn’t move you, I can tell you this, you have not faith and you are in the gall of bitterness, and if you will not forgive another, Scripture says the Father will not forgive you. Because that truth right there will melt the heart of anybody that believes it. And you look at those people – how could I hold on to that when after everything I owed, I came and I fell before Him and I pleaded that He would have mercy with me, and He let me free. Am I going to grab them by the throat and say, “Pay me in full”?
Excerpt from the full sermon, “Put Off Bitterness, Put On Tenderness“.